Captain Blood (Michael Curtiz / U.S., 1935):

A performer who understands silent-movie heartiness, a director versed in dimension and sweep, plus the most cinematic pre-Morricone composer, thatís how to recreate Fairbanks bravado. England in 17th-century upheaval kicks it off, silhouettes before a poster ("Down with the usurper, to arms!") and Errol Flynnís dash and humor as the adventurer whoís "hung up the sword to pick up the lancet." Heís Dr. Blood before heís Captain Blood, his crime is tending to a rebelís wound, his punishment is death until the King changes it to slavery in the Caribbean. The first half is a plantation insurrection fueled by brute imperial business (Lionel Atwill) and touched by coquettish compassion (Olivia De Havilland), definitely an influence on Spartacus and maybe Sansho the Bailiff even; the "timely interruption" of the Spanish pirate raid neatly signals the second half, the anarchic high-seas limbo (or is it utopia?) of "men without a country, outlaws in our own land and homeless outcasts in any other." The Tortugas buccaneer hideout is a jumpiní party town, Basil Rathbone as Bloodís corsair rival models a Gallic taunt for Monty Python, their duel incorporates sand, crashing waves and slippery rocks in direct tribute to The Black Pirate. "Heroic? It was epic!" Michael Curtiz slashes cavernous sets with Germanically elongated shadows and seizes the shipís heaving as part of the continuously tracking, dollying camerawork. Through all of this, Erich Wolfgang Korngoldís themes throb and stir as journeys of their own, truly visual music. A close-up of a cannon's smoking muzzle (Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia) announces the closing stretto, the rascalís integration into society as a little gag that sails straight into Casablanca. Cinematography by Ernest Haller and Hal Mohr. With Ross Alexander, Guy Kibbee, Henry Stephenson, Robert Barrat, Hobart Cavanaugh, Donald Meek, Forrester Harvey, Frank McGlynn Sr., and J. Carrol Naish. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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